End of the Tournament Overview of Quaid-e-Azam Trophy 2023-24

End of the Tournament Overview of Quaid-e-Azam Trophy 2023-24

Article Posted on 8 November, 2023

Introduction:

This Quaid-e-Azam Trophy is the first tournament of this new regional system, with eight teams participating in the premier tournament and ten teams in the non First-Class Hanif Mohammad Trophy.

This tournament is being played in four venues over three cities, Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, Abbottabad Cricket Stadium, Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium and Shoaib Akhtar Cricket Stadium (formerly known as KRL Stadium) in Rawalpindi.

The way cricket is being played in these cities is different from each other, especially the difference between the cricket being played at Gaddafi and other venues.

Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore:

The famously flat pitches of Gaddafi Stadium so far have played to their reputation in this tournament. The average runs per wicket at the venue is 55.7 and even though the pitches have been famously flat since basically forever, in the four seasons since 2019, there have been 14 double-centuries at the venue. In just this season there were 8 double centuries at this venue. 

Sajid Khan had dismissed Ahmed Shehzad by bowling a straight one instead of turning in, which can sometimes be expected at this venue. Sajid had then bowed down and thanked the almighty, that he finally got a wicket after bowling more than 48 overs and conceding over 140 runs. 

Abbottabad Cricket Stadium:

Abbottabad’s Stadium is quite different from the Gaddafi Stadium and it showed in the average runs per wicket, which at the Abbottabad so far was 26.3 which is not very high, showing it is not very easy to score runs there. Fast bowlers were mostly successful at this venue as 146 out of 203 wickets were taken by the pacers, which makes around 72% of the wickets taken by them.

There have been four scores of less than 200 in an innings at this venue and in the round 3, Peshawar defeated Rawalpindi with a margin of an innings and 93 runs. Later on, Lahore Whites in their first game outside Lahore defeated FATA by an innings and 118 runs. So this venue is very result-oriented and the balance is tilted towards the fast bowlers.

However, for someone who had seen the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy before 2019, there was the Duke's ball used on grassy pitches. Similarly this venue was a paradise for pacers as even medium pacers like Ali Shafiq and Mohammad Ilyas who aren’t very quick took five-wicket hauls.

Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium:

Rawalpindi Stadium, like Abbottabad Stadium, is a more balanced venue and offers assistance to the quicker bowlers. The average runs per wicket at this venue in the first five rounds have been 28.1, which again is quite similar to Abbottabad. However, if you were surprised at the percentage of wickets taken by pacers there, 82% of wickets in Pindi Stadium have been taken by pacers so far.

Five of the rounds at this venue featured Faisalabad Region. Their philosophy of playing seems like in Punjabi as they say: “Na khedaan gein, na khedan dawan ge”, translating to 'neither we will play nor will we allow anyone else to play'. In those games, only three scores were above 300.

This was because of the nature of the track and calibre of Faisalabad’s bowling attack that consisted of good pacers like Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Ali, Khurram Shehzad and Arshad Iqbal. Khurram Shehzad and Mohammad Ali are two of the three pacers to take 10 wickets in a game in this tournament.

Shoaib Akhtar Cricket Stadium:

Formerly known as the KRL stadium, Shoaib Akhtar Cricket Stadium had hosted first-class games for the first time since 2019. The average runs per wicket at this venue has been 29.5, which shows it’s the best ground to bat after the Gaddafi Stadium. However, the number is not insanely high as compared to Gaddafi Stadium. 

56% of wickets taken at this ground have been by the pacers, which shows there is quite a balance between pacers and the spinners at this venue. There were only five scores of more than 300 at this venue and three of those came in one game. These types of pitches are kind of perfect with equal opportunities for batters, pacers and spinners.

This venue has been probably the best for spinners during this Quaid-e-Azam Trophy so far, as Zahid Mahmood took a couple of 5-fers here. Young Aaliyan Mahmood also performed well while Ahmed Safi Abdullah picked eight wickets in an innings during the first round.

Notable Performers:

Saim Ayub:

Saim Ayub has been in the limelight for around a year mainly in the shorter formats but this time, he starred in the premier first-class tournament in the country as he became the first batter to score 300 plus runs in a Quaid-e-Azam Trophy Final since 2000. Second most runs were scored by Babar Azam back in 2014 when he scored 266 in the Silver League final.

Along with that, he also scored 140* in the fourth innings in what could have been a great chase but time ran out for Karachi Whites in that game.

Sarfaraz Ahmed:

Sarfaraz has been one of the best batters even before he batted at the batting paradise wicket of Gaddafi Stadium. His batting average so far is 99.6 and the next wicket-keeper that comes close to his runs tally is Lahore Whites’ Junaid Ali who is more than 150 runs short. 

In 11 innings, Sarfaraz has scored 50+ scores in six of them. Sarfaraz has been a vital part of Karachi Whites’ experienced batting line-up consisting of players like Asad Shafiq and Khurram Manzoor. His contributions were vital in winning Karachi Whites the title.

Khurram Shehzad:

Anyone who knew Khurram Shehzad could tell he has great potential especially in red-ball cricket, with an action like Dale Steyn, he could touch 140 kph as well. He has shown his potential in the tournament by taking 36 wickets in just eight games, including five wickets in the final.

Khurram is the third pacer to take a ten-wicket haul in this tournament after his teammates Mohammad Ali and Mir Hamza. 

Faheem Ashraf:

Faheem Ashraf showed in this tournament why he was such a crucial part of Pakistan's Test team until a couple years ago when he was mysteriously left out of central contracts and later on, discarded from the Tests.  

In this season, Faheem has played three games and has scored 265 runs at an average of 33 with two fifties and has also taken 14 wickets at an average of 19.3. Against FATA in round 5, Faheem scored vital 76 runs when his team got out for 215 and then took a wicket each in the later innings to give his team a much-needed win.

Niaz Khan:

Niaz Khan’s name became prominent in the domestic circuit when he took a 5-fer in the last edition of QeA Trophy. He came back stronger this year, by scoring 147 runs and taking 17 wickets for Peshawar region. 

In one of the two wins by a margin of more than an innings in this tournament, Niaz took six wickets across both innings against Rawalpindi region including dismissing Hassan Raza twice who has been in good form for the last year or so. He also took six wickets and scored 33 runs against Lahore Blues, who were at the top of the table at that time in round 4 to take Peshawar to another win.

Zain Abbas:

Quite a lot of openers performed brilliantly in this tournament, mostly at the Gaddafi Stadium. However, in Zain Abbas’s case, he scored just more than 200 runs and at that venue, in only two innings, he got there. Meanwhile he averaged a whopping 75.5 even outside those two innings.

He finished among the top four run-scorers of the tournament and scored the highest individual score of the tournament i.e. 292 and that was also at the Shoaib Akhtar Cricket Stadium.

Conclusion:

Lahore Whites have played 5/7 of their games at the Gaddafi Stadium where it is a miracle if you get wickets. This is kind of unfair on the Lahore Whites squad who could have got more wins under their belt, had they played on more supporting tracks.

One of the reasons why Faisalabad struggled in the final was probably the fact that the final was their first game at that venue, meanwhile Karachi Whites played two games there including one in the last round.

The tournament probably needs to be scheduled in a better way so that teams get to play on different kinds of surfaces like the seamer friendly Pindi Stadium and the batting paradise Gaddafi Stadium.

The best balanced venue in this tournament has been the Shoaib Akhtar Stadium with a balance of runs and wickets by fast bowlers and spinners. Not every pitch should be like this, there are different conditions around the world for which the players should be prepared. However, conditions like Gaddafi Stadium do not provide much long-term benefit to the players be it batters or bowlers.


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